MU says COVID-19 cases have dropped. Experts are skeptical

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By the numbers, COVID-19 cases at the University of Missouri are down, and that looks good on paper.

But it may not reflect reality.

MU and other area universities are not testing students and staff regularly, so officials can’t know how many of them are walking around spreading the coronavirus on campus, and in the surrounding community, infectious disease experts say.

And at MU, only those who show symptoms are told to get a test.

“We should not be reducing testing on college campuses,” said Anthony Fehr, an assistant professor of molecular biosciences at the University of Kansas. “It is clear that they are a hotbed for infections, though few students actually exhibit symptoms.”

Fehr, who has been researching coronaviruses since 2012, said “continued random, regular testing of students on campuses is the only way that these schools will know the true prevalence rate of the virus and be able to contain it such that it does not spread exhaustively out into the larger community, where there are likely to be more at-risk individuals.”

Yet some experts say that wide-scale testing on campuses just isn’t worth the cost.

“Testing does not stop the spread of the disease,” said John Middleton, an MU professor of veterinary medicine and infectious disease. “The problem with mass testing is it uses a lot of resources. It uses a lot of testing capability and with the supply chain the way it is and logistics the way they are, we are better to focus on those people that really need a test because it is medically indicated.”

MU maintains that its limited testing works, and it boasts that case numbers are trending down. Yet a White House report released Sept. 20 said Missouri had the fifth highest rate of cases per capita in the country and